Winning Stories - Henrietta Branford Writing Competition 2019


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The Branford Boase Award for


Mr Swat’s Revenge

by Sara Mazilu and Salam Rajab, both aged 11 years, Sandringham Secondary School, St Albans


The map had led us to an old wall dressed in ivy. I reached through the leaves till I was touching the bricks and felt my way sideways. The wall continued three paces then changed from the rough touch of fired sand to the smooth damp texture of rotting wood. We pulled the evergreen curtain aside. Beneath it was a hidden door. I grabbed the heavy iron ring handle that was riveted to the ancient wood and twisted it with both hands, hoping the door would open.

One day earlier……

It was a boring afternoon on a school day.

I was sitting there on the world’s most uncomfortable chair. Hannah and Anna were face down on the table, snoring and dribbling on the clean desk.

“Your homework is to create a treasure hunt map!” bellowed Mr Swat, the Geography teacher.

The hideous bell rang to let us know that it was the end of the dull, tiring school day. We decided to go in to town to shrug off the flat day. We walked on looking for something interesting. Anna stopped in her tracks to look at a shop on her right, her eyes as big as onions. Hannah and I followed and both realised what she was looking at – an old map shop.

We all entered, mesmerised by what was inside. The shop was full of treasure maps. Maps of all kinds, but they were all toooo expensive.

The shopkeeper saw that we were interested in one of the maps and gave it to us for free. How lucky – our homework problem was solved!

But my prediction was wrong. The wind suddenly blew up, the map flew from my hands and turned it on its back. There a message was written:

If you want to find the treasure, decipher the riddles.

I quickly built a plan: decipher the riddles, find the treasure and keep it. Anna and Hannah agreed.

“That’s not so bad, there’s only three riddles” said Anna.

“Okay” I said, reading out riddle number 1:

It is all in black and white

I move with sound and might

The keys will sing on sight

The prize here does alight.

I was sure that it had something to do with an instrument. It took a bit of time to finally come up with the answer.

“A piano!” I shouted.

We looked for the closest piano shop on our map and found one three streets away.

But then we all started to think about how we could divide the treasure. We kept arguing and walking continually without realising that we were lost. We did not know the streets we were in, but we walked on looking for a piano shop.

Eventually we stopped in front of a shop with big, dark objects in the window. I took a closer look…

They were pianos. We entered, a bell on the door ringing, symbolizing that customers have come. But we weren’t customers. My friends and I were visitors. Visitors that wanted to find a clue.

We wandered around uncertain of which piano to look in. I glanced around the room to see if my careful eyes could find something strange or unusual. My prediction was right. In the corner stood the biggest, largest, oldest crumbling piano. All of us inspected the piano rapidly, taking care not to look suspicious. Suddenly my idea hit the lightbulb. I knelt down on my knees to see if there was something on the back or underneath.

“Bingo!” I cried. A small note was taped underneath the piano. It read:

Although this item has a face

It’s not able to smile

An old version of one of these

Was known as a sundial.

I knew what a sundial was from my History teacher (who was not boring, unlike Mr Swat, my Geography teacher).

“It’s a type of clock that we used to tell the time with using the sun” I said to my friends. We’ll have to go to an antique shop to find one of these.”

The closest antique shop was seven shops away. We went in but we had a dilemma. When my friend and I asked the shopkeeper if he had any sundials, he answered “lots”. So, we split up: Anna, Hannah and I went to different sundials and tried each one to see if it had any clues hidden somewhere. Hannah and I were quick and finished first. Anna was looking weirdly at one of the sundials as if it were her favourite food. She finally explained that the numbers on the sundial were upside down. Then she gripped the celestial pole from the clock with two hands and pulled. To my surprise it cracked in half revealing a white note.

I grabbed the note and my friends ushered me out of the door before the shopkeeper noticed what we had done. I read it out.

“Go to the largest house in town

Everyone knows it’s fallen down.”

We looked at our old map and saw a place labelled old manor house. A lady passing by told us that the ruins at the bottom of the hill used to be a manor house. We raced down the hill and all we could find was the ivy-covered wall. And that was how we ended up feeling our way along it and discovering the ancient door…..

But when we tried to open it, it wouldn’t budge. In her frustration, Hannah kicked the wall making the bricks crumble, revealing a second layer of bricks. I could see something shiny glinting in the lower layer of bricks. They were diamonds of all sizes cemented in the wall. It took us a long time of kicking and breaking the wall to get the diamonds.

In the end, we decided to be generous and donate the diamonds and the map to a famous museum.


The next week, we were back in the Geography lesson. The other pupils were handing in their homework. In all the excitement, we had forgotten that tiny detail.

“Where is your homework?!” roared Mr Swat.

I wish I could swat you out like a fly I thought to myself. But I didn’t dare speak out.

Girls, save your souls I mouthed to my friends.

Yosuf Ali  |  Amelia Barwick  |  Elisabeth Goldsmith  |  Alice Rose Jennings  |  
Sara Mazilu and Salam Rajab |  Wilf Squibb

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